Business is war.
It makes us feel dramatic to say something like that, but why? Entrepreneurship requires us to roll the dice with our futures. We sacrifice our time, our opportunities, often times our savings, all for the chance to put our business in the world and compete.
When success comes at the price of someone else’s success, and failure can derail your entire life, that’s a battle. That’s a war.
If you want to win in war, you have to be a warrior. The same is true of business. We are all capable of adopting a warrior mindset, it’s just a question of commitment.
Most people don’t understand what being a warrior means. They think of it as the sort of thing selfish pricks would say about themselves, the kind of people who need to justify how poorly they treat others.
That’s the opposite of a warrior mindset. Warriors put themselves on the line for the people they serve.
A warrior is completely focused, disciplined, and aggressive not out of selfishness, but on behalf of others.
Every general has a president to report to, and in your case, your president is your client, your boss, or your customers. They are the country you represent when you go to work, and if you want your country to win, you need to understand these three laws of war.
Rule 1: Only Move When It Benefits You
“If it is to your advantage, make a forward move; if not, stay where you are… A kingdom that has once been destroyed can never come again into being; nor can the dead ever be brought back to life. “ -Sun Tzu
Every movement comes with risk. Leaving your job for something else, investing your money in a new business, even rolling out a new feature or service for your existing business—all of it invites the unknown into your life.
Before making any move in life, write down the pros and cons.
Don’t do a quick mental checklist, actually write them down. If the scales aren’t tipped overwhelmingly towards the pros, don’t make a move.
This is about discipline. Taking a chance on something because you find it interesting, not because you see the advantage it gives you, is an undisciplined move. As obstacles arise—and they inevitably will—your interest will fade, you will find it hard to maintain the discipline required to carry on, and you will ultimately fail.
Imagine you have a secure job—steady income, enjoyable work, benefits for your family—and your friend launches a startup. He asks you to come work with him, and you get excited. Being spontaneous, you decide to jump ship and take him up on the offer, even though the pros and cons are about 50/50.
Six months in, your life is brutal. You’re putting in 80 hour weeks just to keep the company afloat, your equity is worth nothing because the company isn’t growing, and your salary is lower than it was. You can’t see a future here where you aren’t miserable.
At this point, you can either roll the dice again and quit, or you can suffer from no clear path to victory.
Now imagine the pros heavily outweighed the cons. Six months in, you’re still putting in 80 hour weeks, but you have a vision you’re dedicated to, and you’re disciplined in your work. At the end of this, your life has the potential to be so much more, and that puts a fire in your belly.
You know what victory looks like, and you’re willing to overcome anything that might obstruct you in pursuit of it. That’s a warrior mindset.
Rule 2: Know What Unlocks Your Beast
Imagine your mind had an odometer that measured how “in the zone” you were.
We all have periods of time where we’re close to our top speed, thinking sharply, moving quickly, completely focused on the task at hand. Marshawn Lynch, the famous Seattle Seahawks running back calls this “Beast Mode.”
To be a warrior, you need to figure out what triggers your beast mode, and make it part of your routine.
For me, this is very much about my body. Every morning at 5:15 a.m. I wake up, run an ice cold bath, and plunge myself in. Then I go to the gym for at least an hour, shower, sauna, and go to work.
When my body is engaged at that level, I know I have at least 6-8 hours of Beast Mode in me for the rest of the day. The endorphin rush pushes me all day long.
For some people, meditation unlocks their beast. For you, it might be something different. What’s important is that you find it, and systematize it so that you can operate at the highest level every day.
Every warrior as a ritual they follow before going into battle, and when you find yours, you make yourself that much more likely to emerge victorious.
Rule 3: Commit To Your Objective Without Shame
No successful military campaign begins with a vague objective. No general says “We want to generally win more battles than we lose.” You need a clear vision of victory to aim for.
Most people actually understand that intuitively, but they feel uncomfortable committing themselves that intensely to their goals. They’re afraid of what other people will say, of being labeled as the person who “takes themselves too seriously.”
Imagine a Navy SEAL dialing back their intensity because someone said it was “inappropriate.”
You need to do two things:
1. Accept that people who judge your ambition and focus cannot be key players in your life.
2. Block off periods of time when you are 100% focused on work.
Do you think soldiers answer FaceTime calls during combat? When they’re engaged, they’re fully engaged. Nothing distracts them. You need that same level of mental commitment.
I call this “going underground.”
Everyone in my family and inner circle knows, when I’m underground, I’m more or less unreachable. I do my best, most important work in this time period because I’m completely engaged in the fight.
You might think you’d sacrifice your personal life living this way, but the opposite is actually true. Because I’m able to operate at such a high-level when I’m “underground,” when I come up for air I’m able to completely dedicate myself to my family.
Friday family night, date night with my wife, soccer games with my kids—none of it gets interrupted by work, because I know there’s no way to be halfway in a firefight.
Your Stakes Are Too High To Be Anything But A Warrior
Being a warrior comes down to taking relationships seriously. Your relationship with your customers, your relationship with your competitors, your relationship with yourself, and your relationship with your family.
Failure in any of these relationships can ruin your life. I don’t mean that hyperbolically, I literally mean that your entire life can be undermined if you don’t place enough importance on any one of these relationships.
Fortunately, adopting a warrior mindset just takes a notebook and some heart. In the next few hours, you could write down daily objectives, a new routine to unlock your beast, and a schedule to focus your work and family life.
Then, the only thing between you and being a warrior is your commitment.